Is working long nights and weekends the only way to build great products?

“Thanks to all the people giving up nights and weekends.”

These were Tim Cook’s closing words in the 2019 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.

I got it.

If you want to build something great, you have to sacrifice many things from your life. Your time, your sleep, your money…

Without working hard, it is impossible to accomplish your goals and dreams. But the question is:

How much hard do you have to work?

How much sacrifice do you have to make?

Alright. As an entrepreneur, you have to work hard. You have to sacrifice your most precious thing-your time, (although science tells a different story but we will come to that point later on) to have an impact in the world and make a change.

Entrepreneurship is not a job. It’s a lifestyle. If you want to live that life, you have to embrace all the sacrifices that come along. Especially, in the early stage of your startup. But the question here is — will this keep going on like that? Does being an entrepreneur means that you will have to live that kind of life forever? Do your employees have to live that life too? Do they have to sacrifice their lives to help you achieve your dreams?

I don’t think so.

As an employer, your number one priority should be your employees. Creating a healthy and happy environment where they can work in calm and maximize their productivity.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” ― Richard Branson

Should you expect the same sacrifice from your employees? Do they have to work long nights and weekends to make your dream come true?

Not at all. Especially for giant companies like Apple.

A lot of people started questioning Apple’s work ethic after Tim Cook’s closing words.

I couldn’t agree more. Although Apple is one of the biggest company on the planet, their employees still have to sacrifice their nights and weekends to accomplish their company goals. It is really sad to see that.

Overwork is not cool, especially not on a regular, expected, and self-imposed schedule. Deal with a crisis, sure. A release ain’t that.

Maybe that’s what it takes to make a big company?

I don’t think so. There are a lot of big companies on the planet that put their employees first and provide them with better work-life balance. Nike and Google are one of them.

“Nike and Google have both adopted a more relaxed approach to work schedules, allowing employees to time their daily work hours to match their individual circadian rhythms and their respective owl and lark chronotype nature. The change in mindset is so radical that these same brand-leading corporations even allow workers to sleep on the job. Littered throughout their corporate headquarters are dedicated relaxation rooms with “nap pods.” Employees can indulge in sleep throughout the workday in these “shh” zones, germinating productivity and creativity while enhancing wellness and reducing absenteeism.” -Walker, Matthew. Why We Sleep

Do you have to be a giant company to provide your employees with a healthy work environment?

No. Basecamp is a great example of that. Founders Jason Fried and DHH provide their employees with many opportunities to organize their work. They don’t even have to work from the office. Their employee can work from wherever they are. They don’t have to work between the specific time range. Daytime or nights, doesn’t matter as long as they do a great job and contribute to the company’s vision. I admire their work ethic and company culture. You can read their “Rework” and “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work” books to learn more about them.

What happens when you push your employees to work long nights and weekends?

If you believe that working long nights and weekends can make you more productive and you can get more done, you have a wrong belief. Unfortunately, many people and giant companies still practice this.

If you do 50 hours of work a week, after 8–10 weeks you’re less productive per week than someone doing 40 hours.

Early studies demonstrated that shorter sleep amounts predict lower work rate and slow completion speed of basic tasks. In other words, sleepy employees are unproductive employees. Sleep-deprived individuals also generate fewer and less accurate solutions to work-relevant problems they are challenged with. Therefore, under-slept staff will not push your company forward with productive innovation.

It is not only big companies’ fault to believe that longs hours are necessary to get more done. Employees believe in the same thing.

There is a fact that most people will trade sleep for a higher salary. A recent study from Cornell University surveyed hundreds of US workers and gave them a choice between either (1) $80,000 a year, working normal work hours, and getting the chance for around eight hours of sleep, or (2) $140,000 a year, working consistent overtime shifts, and only getting six hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, the majority of individuals went with the second option with a higher salary and shorter sleep. To learn more about sleep I strongly recommend you to read “Walker, Matthew’s Why We Sleep” book.

It seems those convincing people that long hours equal to more money was one the capitalism’s tricks and as we can see from the studies a very successful one.